It was ten minutes to seven when I got my rickshaw bot to drop me off near the apartment house where I had tailed the truck. A few windows were lit and recorded music was bleating at the dusk. I rode the elevator up to the fourth floor and went along a wide hall carpeted in green and panelled in ivory-coloured plastic. A cool breeze blew down the hall from the open screened door to the fire escape.

There was a small pushbutton beside the door marked '405'. I pushed it and waited what seemed like a long time. Then the door opened noiselessly about thirty centimetres. There was a steady furtive air in the way it opened. The man was long-legged, long-waisted, high-shouldered, and he had dark brown eyes in a brown expressionless face that had learned to control its expressions long ago. Hair like steel wool grew far back on his head and gave him a great deal of domed brown forehead that might at a careless glance have seemed a dwelling-place for brains. His sombre eyes probed at me impersonally. His long thin brown fingers held the edge of the door. He said nothing.

I said: "Geiger?"

Nothing in the man's face changed that I could see. He brought a cigarette from behind the door and tucked in between his lips and drew a little smoke from it. The smoke came towards me in a lazy, contemptuous puff and behind it words in a cool unhurried voice that had no more inflection than the voice of a robot travel agent.

"You said what?"

"Geiger. Arthur Gwynne Geiger. The guy that has the books."

The man considered that without any haste. He glanced down at the tip of his cigarette. His other hand, the one that had been holding the door, dropped out of sight. His shoulder had a look as though his hidden hand might be making motions.

"Don't know anybody by that name," he said. "Does he live around here?"

I smiled. He didn't like the smile. His eyes got nasty. I said: "You're Joe Brody?"

The brown face hardened. "So what? Got a problem, brother, or just amusing yourself?"

"So you're Joe Brody," I said. "And you don't know anybody named Geiger. That's very funny."

"Yeah? You got a funny sense of humour, maybe. Take it away and play on it somewhere else."

I leaned against the door and gave him a dreamy smile. "You got the books, Joe. I got the sucker list. We ought to talk things over."

He didn't shift his eyes from my face. There was a faint sound in the room behind him, as though a metal curtain ring clicked lightly on a metal rod. He glanced sideways into the room. He opened the door wider.

"Why not, if you think you've got something?" he said coolly. He stood aside from the door. I went past him into the room.

It was a cheerful room with good furniture and not too much of it. French windows in the end wall opened up on a wide balcony and looked across the dusk at the dome supports. Near the windows a closed door in the spinwards wall and near the entrance door another door in the same wall. This last had a plush curtain drawn across it on a thin brass rod below the lintel.

That left the antispinwards wall, in which there were no doors. There was a davenport backed against the middle of it, so I sat down on the davenport. Brody shut the door and walked crab-fashion to a tall oak-effect desk studded with square nails and decorated with a large old-fashioned terminal. A cedar-wood box with gilt hinges lay on the desk. He carried the box to an easy chair midway between the other two doors and sat down. I waited.

"Well, I'm listening," Brody said. He opened the cigar box and dropped his cigarette stub into a dish at his side. He put a long thin cigar in his mouth. "Cigar?" He tossed one at me through the air.

I reached for it. Brody took a gun out of the cigar box and pointed it at my nose. I looked at the gun. It was a black Police Special. I had no argument against it at the moment.

"Neat, huh?" Brody said. "Just kind of stand up a minute. Come forward just about two metres. You might grab a little air while you're doing that." His voice was the elaborate casual voice of the tough guy in old flat-screen movies. Movies have made them all like that.

Part 2